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By Suzanne

Jason Isaacs

Interview with Jason Isaacs of "Awake" on NBC 2/27/12

See that nice photo of Jason Isaacs smiling? That's exactly how he comes over on the phone. I don't know why he plays so many bad guys because he's a really nice, genial kind of guy who sounds like he could really talk your ear off. He's very positive and enthusiastic.  His character in "Awake" is not so cheery, since he's recovering from an accident.  Isaacs usually plays bad guys, like the terrible villain of "The Patriot" or Lucius Malvoy in the Harry Potter movies. That's a testament to what a great actor he is.

Anyway, I hadn't seen the first episode yet of "Awake" when we did this interview, but listening to him talk about it definitely made me want to see it. It is a good show, and I hope it does well. Regardless, I'm sure Jason Isaacs will keep on thriving and succeeding. This was a great interview and I enjoyed listening to him answer all the questions as well as getting to talk to him myself.

Moderator: Tracy St. Pierre
February 27, 2012
11:00 am CT

Operator: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to the Awake Jason Isaacs Press and Media conference call. During the presentation all participants will be in a listen-only mode.

We will conduct a question and answer session. At that time if you have a question please press the 1 followed by the 4 on your telephone. If at any time during the conference you need to reach an operator please press Star 0.

As a reminder, this conference is being recorded Monday, February 27, 2012. I would now like to turn the conference over to Tracy St. Pierre. Please go ahead.

Tracy St. Pierre: Good morning everyone, thanks for joining us on our call with Jason Isaacs. Should you need anything following this call please contact me at (818) 777-2940 and remember that Awake premieres on March 1 on NBC. Iím going to turn the call over to you guys now.

Jason Isaacs: Good morning everyone. That all seems very formal to me. I feel like I should be wearing a tux.

Operator: Ladies and gentlemen, if you would like to register a question please press the 1 followed by the 4 on your telephone. You will hear a three tone prompt to acknowledge your request. If your question has been answered and you would like to withdraw your registration please press the 1 followed by the 3. One moment please for our first question. And our first question comes from the line of Kyle Nolan with Please go ahead with your question.

Kyle Nolan: Hi Jason, thanks for taking time to talk to us today.

Jason Isaacs: Itís a pleasure, you got me out of shooting.

Kyle Nolan: With your character Michael Britten living in these two separate realities, does it ever feel like youíre working on two different shows with different casts simultaneously?

Jason Isaacs: It does actually. I have two different sets of people I work with. I work with Wilmer and Laura who plays my wife and whatever is going on that side of the story. And then I work with Dylan who plays my son and Steve Harris is my partner.

Laura Innes who plays a police captain in both are the only person that overlaps although as the season goes on the writers started to be slightly more insane and very imaginative things happen where people cross over.

But yes I feel like Iím the hub. Thereís all this - thereís a cast that normally feels like a family but most of them only have scenes with me and Iím the only common thread.

But itís less really that my colleagues are split, more that I have to really work to remember what has happened in what world in exactly the same way that Michael Britten does. And hopefully itís me struggling through that is entertaining to watch because we all like to watch other people suffer.

Kyle Nolan: Now when you shoot the episode do you film all of the red world scenes together and then all the green scenes or do you flip back and forth to add to that confusion?

Jason Isaacs: Wouldnít that be a beautiful thing if they designed the schedule around making it easy for me? No we donít shoot anything in any kind of order or any way that makes it simple.

And Iím very often to be caught in the corner of the set just frowning fetally and sucking my thumb and wishing to God I could understand what was going on. But luckily there are some smart people around me with scripts with many markings in it. And itís like doing a cryptic crossword puzzle blind with your hand tied behind your back.

But by the time we finish it and pull it all together our top priority is to make sure that an audience has to work just hard enough to enjoy it and not hard enough to be put off.

Kyle Nolan: Yes, well I really enjoyed the pilot and I canít wait to see more. Thanks a lot.

Jason Isaacs: Well thanks very much.

Operator: And our next question comes from the line of Reg Seeton with Please proceed with your question.

Reg Seeton: Hi Jason, thanks for taking the call.

Jason Isaacs: Itís - it really is a pleasure genuinely. I just wandered off from the set where all my friends are working very hard and I went Iíll see you in a couple of hours, Iím going off for some food and to make a phone call.

Reg Seeton: Cool. Well how do you look at your struggle to play Britten effectively in contrast with what heís trying to figure out as a character?

Jason Isaacs: Well all great storytelling is what if, I mean, all the things I love to watch are just scenarios in which you can just try and imagine yourself in them. And nobody wants to watch, you know, what if I had to go to the grocery store and buy bananas. We all want something more exciting and different and this is incredibly engaging.

So I just - all acting is the same. What if I was a wizard, what if I was stuck behind the lines in Somalia, you know, Iíve done all those things. What if I was a priest or drug dealer? And now itís what if I didnít know which of my worlds was real? How would I cope?

So, you know, I do my job because I find it fun and exciting and sometimes I think itís useful as well and that living a life through other peopleís challenges can be illuminating and invigorating.

So I just try and throw myself into his dilemma and not prepare too much and see, you know, like most of us. Most of us donít plan what weíre going to do, the day happens to us. We just try and roll with the blows and thatís what I try and do as Michael.

Reg Seeton: Well although there are two realities at play, how do you see Awake as being grounded in a universal reality that audiences will connect with?

Jason Isaacs: Well I think that the fear of losing a loved one is - for anyone who has a family is ever present and that hand in hand with the opportunity to rebuild, the opportunity to take a second run at making a marriage work or being a parent, you know, to somehow step outside yourself and go what if I had a chance to do this differently. I think thatís a very universal thing.

And then for me I dream very vividly and I often wake up and thereís a hangover from the dream that takes me into my life. I treat people differently during the day based on things they did in my dream which is really no part of their problem.

And I think that - so those things I think are very universal. And then the other thing is that as a man Iím playing a man who is a fixer, you know, heís a guy that sorts other peopleís problems out. He doesnít like to have problems.

And thatís certainly true of a lot of men that I know. They donít like to think of themselves as needing help ever. And this is a guy whose job it is to fix the world, you know. He sees himself on a mission to make things right everywhere and heíd like to make things right for his wife and son.

But we can all see, all of us in the audience can see heís probably the one that needs most help of all. And I think thatís - for anyone who has ever had to deal with a man I think thatís a pretty universal thing also.

And then, you know, mostly the first level of any storytelling needs to be that it takes you on a ride and this thing takes you on an extremely unusual ride that holds your imagination. We have this plot engine every week that heís, you know, a detective so cases come his way.

And he and us, the audience, are constantly thinking is this really a case or is this - I can see so clearly how this could spring from stuff thatís going on in his life. This could so easily be his imagination creating this. And so there is a puzzle and everybody loves puzzles -- certainly I do.

Reg Seeton: Great, thanks Jason.

Jason Isaacs: So I hope the combination of those things and, you know, the rest of the fact that weíre making moving pictures so we actually have some very talented people in the craft departments.

You canít really - I donít think anyone can ever discount how important it is to literally create interesting, dynamic pictures, you know, things that are visceral and geophysical and the part that music plays. And I think we have people in every craft department who are just playing at the top of their game. I - personally I think itís very engaging but I admit that Iím slightly biased.

Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Amy and Nancy Harrington with Pop Culture Passionistas. Please proceed with your question.

Amy: Hi, thanks so much for talking to us today. Weíre big fans.

Jason Isaacs: Thanks very much.

Amy: There seems to be a big trend these days towards paranormal and sort of alternate reality shows. Why do you think people are drawn to these kinds of shows?

Jason Isaacs: Well, you know, first of all I donít think anybody ever buys a ticket to go and watch the village of the happy people so we like to watch people who are struggling because struggles are great and challenging and they have been at the heart of every great story since people have scratched cave paintings on the wall.

And secondly why tell stories about the mundane and naturalistic when we can live fantastical lives? And so we can do things when we tell stories that donít happen to us when we go down to buy a light bulb, you know, or we get a pint of milk.

But actually I donít think - itís difficult to classify our show. You know, people before they saw it started comparing it to things that it really isnít comparable to. Weíre hoping that we defy classification.

Itís not sci-fi, thereís no aliens and, you know, although he comes from, you know, Howard Gordon who was one of the key writers on X Files and incidentally on Beauty and the Beast but also on 24. But, you know, itís not sci-fi and itís not action. Itís a combination of everything. Itís kind of an emotional psychological thriller. Really if anything itís a psychological mystery.

So, you know, but also why do I think there is an upsurge in that? I think that these are troubled and difficult times and we all like to escape the mundanity of our daily lives.

Amy: Yes. And you said a little while ago that you dream very vividly. Can you share maybe one of your vivid dreams to us that has stuck with you?

Jason Isaacs: Well, you know, there is a certain responsibility as an actor publicizing his show to make sure that you say interesting and engaging things. But the shit that happens in my mind when I go to sleep is so twisted I am not sure that itís appropriate to be shared with the entire world.

I know this, that you canít control your dreams no matter how much of a control freak anybody is. Thatís one area where, you know, the fetters come off and the imagination roams free. And whatever you - whatever anxieties and fears and hopes youíve been burying in your daily life, they will come to the fore in your dreams and they certainly do in mine.

Amy: Excellent, well thank you very much. Good luck with the show.

Jason Isaacs: Thank you very much.

Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Amy Amatangelo with Boston Herald. Please proceed with your question.

Amy Amatangelo: Hi Jason, thanks for (unintelligible).

Jason Isaacs: Hey Amy, how do you say your surname?

Amy Amatangelo: Itís Amatangelo.

Jason Isaacs: Thank you very much.

Amy Amatangelo: No, she was very close. Itís a very hard name to say, everyone always struggles. So I wanted to ask you, did you or how do you in your mind decide what is Michaelís reality and what is his dream just to play the part?

Jason Isaacs: Yes I know, if we were ever forced to make a decision to tell the public I know exactly what we would do, something Kyle and Howard and I know and we are never going to tell anyone. I think - well certainly I have taken the pact of (unintelligible). I havenít told my wife, I donít know if they have told theirs.

But it really doesnít affect anybody watching because for Michael Britten both worlds are real and thatís the central hook and concept of our - of, you know, thatís our premise. And he doesnít know which one is real and has to treat both with equal respect and honor them.

And itís one of the things obviously that frustrates his therapist and frustrates him because he knows one of them must be his imagination but he just canít tell which. But I know, yes I know exactly whatís going.

Amy Amatangelo: And did you feel that was important to be able to play the part to know in your own mind what was real and what was unreal?

Jason Isaacs: No just Iím a producer on the show, Iíve been in on the discussions from the beginning and shaping the story and the story lines and, you know, itís one of those things obviously when we sat down over coffee to dream ourselves into the universe we discussed with each other. But itís not that relevant.

And people have only seen the pilot. If they think the show will be about guessing which world is real or not then theyíre being slightly misled. Thatís sleight of hand anyway, thatís setting out the premise. You know, itís what is called a premise pilot and our show is not like that every week.

In fact to tell the truth, our show is not like itself every week. You know, the central conceit is the same and the characters are the same often but the writers have found this to be -- I know because Iíve spent a lot of time and talked to them -- found this to be one of the hardest things they have ever worked on and also one of the freest because their imagination can go nuts.

And you will see towards the end of the season they are really kicking - they have kicked the walls down, you know. When they really found their feet they just - itís amazing what they let fly. So the premise just takes us into a universe and then the universe takes hold. So itís not - every week is not about is it heads or tails at all.

Amy Amatangelo: Thatís interesting. And then can you tell me a little bit about why you decided to get involved with this project? Were you looking to get back into series television after Brotherhood or were you just...

Jason Isaacs: No I wasnít, I really wasnít. And, you know, I was - Iím deeply resentful that Iím here. And I know Howard Gordon, we just couldnít stop ourselves. I was in Los Angeles because I had sold an idea for a TV show that I was desperate to make that I thought would be something that Iíd really like to be in and help make.

And Howard who I had met a long time before similarly was given this thing to read and I was given it to read. I was being asked if I would like to do various pilots and I said no because I really didnít want to, I wanted to do my own show.

And Bob Greenblat who I know from Showtime wrote me an email and said Iíd really like you to take a look at this thing. And, you know, again I said thatís very kind of you but I have my own show that I am developing.

And I sat down with Howard and he said look Jason, I just read this thing. I create my own things, you know, I did 24, Iíve got Homeland starting. I really donít want to get involved but I read it, itís just too good. Iím asking you, just please take a look at it. And I looked at it and it was like somebody giving me a hit of crack -- I just couldnít get it out of my system.

And, you know, I took the job not even because I wanted to do it, it was just because I would have been too resentful if anyone else had done it. And mostly if I had to boil it down to one thing I wanted to find out what happened in episode 2 before anyone else.

You know, I just - I had no interest in doing a network show, I was developing a cable show and, you know, I had come from Showtime. And I just - the idea was too good. I didnít know where it was going to go, what we were going to do with it.

It felt like an insane thing to try on television but it was too - itís very rare to find good writing and interesting writing and itís very rare also to find someone like Howard Gordon whose storytelling skills I respected a lot, you know. I thought Homeland - I could tell because he told me about it and it was going to be great and I thought he was great when he wrote 24 and the X Files and stuff.

And I trusted Bob from Showtime who had done some amazing work there and I thought how often do circumstances come together to bring a talented group of people together with a great idea. You know, Iíd be an idiot to walk away.

And so I had to let my other series go on the back burner for a while and I hope it does happen sometime. But, you know, it was a great giant big ostrich in the bush as opposed to two tiny sparrows, you know. Or in the hand, sorry, as opposed to two sparrows in the bush.

Amy Amatangelo: Well good, well Iím glad you decided to do the show. I really enjoyed the pilot and looking forward to seeing the rest of the season so thanks so much.

Jason Isaacs: Iím sorry, the other reason is when I sat with Howard he said why donít you want to do it and I said well Howard Iím producing something, Iím rather enjoying spreading those wings and, you know, I have - Iím kind of in on creating something. He went well produce this with me.

And it was like a great secondhand car salesman, he just closed me down. You know, it was like he said if I get you the blue leather one by Tuesday with the radio will you take it? And I just had no reason to say no.

Amy Amatangelo: Thank you so much, thanks thatís great. Thank you.

Jason Isaacs: Thanks a lot.

Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Kiko Martinez with Extra Chicago. Please proceed with your question.

Kiko Martinez: Hey Jason, thanks a lot for taking the time.

Jason Isaacs: Itís a pleasure.

Kiko Martinez: Hey so with the amount of reality TV there is on the three major networks I would say thereís not a lot of thought-provoking TV out there right now. Do you think Awake is going to fill a much-needed void in the overall TV lineup and do you think audiences are ready to open their minds a little and actually think about something?

Jason Isaacs: Well, you know, itís a two-part question. Do I think Awake will be successful? God knows, I have no idea whatís successful and what isnít successful. My - luckily the stuff that I love doing and I enjoy doing is try to create interesting stories in interesting ways where you recognize the humanity of them and so that youíre held by them. And thatís what Iíve been trying to do for the last six months, you know, from dawn until midnight every day.

So how it does or doesnít collect an audience and what network itís on and what its lead-in is and what its demographic is and all that stuff Iím learning about but itís completely out of my control. And, you know, I just canít read the tea leaves. Who knows?

Obviously I hope it does well because this is a really nice, talented bunch of people that I think are doing good work and I hope we get to stay together. But, you know, audiences will find it or not. But the other question - sorry, one was about will it find an audience and the other was.

Kiko Martinez: Do you think audiences are ready to open up their mind a little bit and (unintelligible)?

Jason Isaacs: Oh thatís right. Well the other thing is, you know, there has been an odd thing that has happened actually in the making of this. First of all the creators themselves were nervous about, you know, do we need to make it clearer which world we are in and, you know, was it too complicated.

And I have two daughters and one of whom is five when I was making the pilot. And I was with her and she was explaining the story to her friend in the park and I shot it on my iPhone and I came back and I showed Howard and Kyle and various other people my five year old explaining the story in two sentences. And I said itís incredibly simple. I donít know who it is youíre worrying about watching it out there but youíre wrong.

And the other thing is that, you know, a lot of critics and journalists I have spoken to have said well I really like it, I love it but, you know, do you think the American public will understand it.

And I just think thatís an insult to American audiences who are very sophisticated and, you know, they made The West Wing one of the most popular TV shows in the country for almost a decade and that was, you know, dealing with the great issues of global politics through character. This is a really simple concept. You know, is - which of my worlds is real, you know, and what would you do if you didnít know which world was real.

So will they get it? Is it - can they, you know, follow it? Yes, thereís no way we make any story too complicated to follow. Is it unlike anything else on television? Yes it is. Itís not, you know, weíre not - thereís no - there is nothing that it is a direct copy of and hopefully itís original enough and yet familiar enough that people will want to come to watch it.

But, you know, itís a terrible thing to say commercially Iím not really interested in getting audiences for the sake of getting audiences, just making something that is on and is watched. I want to make something that is really good. I want to tell really good interesting stories in a way that is engaging and gives you both fun to watch and fun to talk about afterwards.

And so thatís what I try to be part of doing and if people find it and like it, great, and if they donít that will be a shame. But I trust the American public if they see it and like it, it will be because they are perfectly smart enough to follow it.

Kiko Martinez: How do you think the setup for the show is going to affect the fact that this is not only a complex (unintelligible) but itís also a procedural cop show? I mean, are the police story lines going to take a back seat to what Michael is experiencing in his own mind?

Jason Isaacs: Well whatís cool about this show is that, you know, everybody working which has got favorite different episodes. In some weeks itís very procedural, you know, thereís a lot of (unintelligible). Some weeks itís incredibly domestic and thereís some weeks it goes absolutely whacko, Iíll tell you. If you can watch it, some crazy stuff happens in his mind that manifests itself in his world.

And itís like weíre making an indie movie every week. Itís like youíve given, you know, weíve got 13 episodes. Itís like youíve given 13 different writers -- although theyíre not different writers -- the same brief and see what they come up with.

Because since one of the worlds at least is a dream theyíre really free to let their imagination roam. And itís grounded in the reality of some procedural element because we want people to be able to watch any episode without having to watch the others. I think it will be more satisfying if you watch the whole season and hopefully people will either when itís on TV or when itís on DVD.

But it was a note from everybody involved, the network and the studio and I think internally as well that we wanted to give some closed ended narrative to every week so that people didnít feel like well I missed last week so I canít tune in because that would be a shame.

Kiko Martinez: Thanks a lot Jason, I really appreciate it, thank you.

Jason Isaacs: Itís a pleasure.

Operator: And our next question comes from the line of Alice Chapman-Nugent with The Times Courier Georgia. Please proceed with your question.

Alice Chapman-Nugent: Hi Jason, I appreciate you taking the time out of your day to talk to us.

Jason Isaacs: Itís a pleasure, my friend (Dave Morrissey) just signed up to come down to the Walking Dead in Georgia and he was telling me about (unintelligible) and I wish I was coming.

Alice Chapman-Nugent: Oh yes me too. Well my question is how does the two reality worlds of your character, how does it help in solving crime cases?

Jason Isaacs: Well, you know, the really cheesy answer would be tune in and see. Every single week it helps in different ways.

Hereís the thing. You know, sometimes - I donít know about you but, you know, I have a dream and something in my dream when I wake up I think why the hell was I dreaming that. And itís because it lodged in my consciousness during the day without me realizing.

Michael Britten is a great detective. Heís a very instinctive human being and maybe because of what has happened to him with his wife and son maybe his antenna are even more, you know, available to him. Or maybe heís more sensitive to what is going on around him. But the stuff that goes on in his world that he doesnít really register but his subconscious does and it gets explored in his dreams.

And so we tried not to make - at some point we said to ourselves we donít want - this isnít magical so if something happens in one world that leads him to something in the other world itís because he might have noticed that thing in his first world without realizing it.

And then sometimes we do something even more controversial that hopefully will make people wonder if there is magic going on. But itís in different ways. Sometimes itís an instinct about human beings, sometimes itís actually a clue, sometimes itís what something looks like, sometimes itís a name.

You know, weíre - we have - there are rules to this universe but they are very flexible. And, you know, our brief to ourselves was it should cross over and help him solve crimes in the most entertaining way possible and thatís what we try and do.

Alice Chapman-Nugent: Okay. Did you do any research on any particular or similar reality type cases that helped you get into your role?

Jason Isaacs: Well I did. You know, first of all I went on ride-alongs with homicide cops both in Chicago last year and Los Angeles this year and itís, you know, I have to say itís nothing like what you see on TV. I donít mean necessarily on our show, I mean on shows generally. Thereís very few shows that reflect the reality.

And so I tried to bring some of the most dynamic elements back into the show. Obviously there are many, many hours doing nothing at all and taking statements which we donít want to have on TV.

But because of that I asked the advisor, we have a great advisor on the show who was the advisor on The Shield for a long time and we try and make things more accurate to how investigations are. So, you know, thatís on the cop side of it.

And on the imaginative side of it my brother is a psychiatrist who deals a lot with post traumatic stress disorder, in fact he was helping me with the series I sold to FX. And so I talked with him quite extensively about how - what might happen in these areas and what would be realistic and what wouldnít be realistic.

But the truth is that this is a flight of fantasy from Kyle and Howard and (Jeffrey Rinehart), our supervising producer who ran Friday Night Lights for a long time.

And Iím not sure that there is or has ever been anybody who didnít know which world was real. Certainly I hope there isnít anybody who has got a badge and a gun who doesnít know which world is real. I hope they are just contained to NBC on Thursday nights at 10:00 or else I feel very unsafe walking the streets.

Alice Chapman-Nugent: Well thank you so much and I hope the show does really well. I think it will.

Jason Isaacs: Well who knows? Weíre just trying to put the best stuff we can out there and, you know, I just hope people - Iím English so I have this - I have a slight natural aversion to saying we have made an amazing show, come and watch it, itís brilliant. I feel like those people - I would rather be in the supermarket giving people free samples. Iíd rather say come and try it. If you donít like it, donít come back, you know.

My experience has been - and in fact, you know, the pilot is free to download online and millions of people have been watching it and loving it. So thatís, you know, the best proof of the pudding is in the eating so I hope people try it at least.

Alice Chapman-Nugent: All right well thank you so much.

Jason Isaacs: Thanks a lot.

Operator: Our next question comes from the line of (Don King) with MSNPB. Please proceed with your question.

Don King: Hi Jason, very nice to speak with you this morning.

Jason Isaacs: Morning (Don).

Don King: You mentioned earlier that this is - you donít quite see this as a science fiction show but the sort of idea of parallel realities is a concept that has been in the science fiction world for a while and been, you know, in different aspects of it.

So how do you kind of balance that with the idea of not getting - maybe there is a question in terms of the writing of the show but how do you balance the concept youíre working with not getting too science fictional and also kind of keeping, you know, that balance with the procedural detective material?

Jason Isaacs: Well dreams arenít science fiction, dreams are real or rather dreams are real, there you go. People do have dreams and people have very vivid dreams. People have lucid dreams, people have recurring dreams, and weíve gone one step further and we have dreams in which nothing supernatural happens.

So and theyíre so realistic and theyíre so - theyíre ongoing dreams as opposed to recurring dreams and with an unfolding narrative so much so that the person dreaming doesnít know whether theyíre dreaming or not. But I donít know that thatís science fiction. It feels like itís more psychological fiction to me.

Don King: All right, thank you very much.

Jason Isaacs: Itís a pleasure.

Operator: Our next question comes from the line of (Rita Sharrow) with (Popular) World. Please proceed with your question.

Rita Sharrow: Hi Jason, thanks for taking the call.

Jason Isaacs: Itís a pleasure.

Rita Sharrow: I was wondering, how does Michael - can you give us a little more insight into Michael, how Michael is going to cope with this never knowing where he is? Can you give us an idea of what happens to him? You donít have to give away everything but, I mean, beyond the pilot.

Jason Isaacs: Sure well, you know, I think itís fair to say it doesnít go well for him. We like to see, you know, protagonists in jeopardy and he is in both physical and psychological jeopardy. And there was a season long arc as well as weekly procedural which is to do with the fact that the accident that killed either his wife or his son might well not have been an accident.

And I can tell you this. We finish shooting tomorrow and I cannot wait to sit and go and see various doctors for the various injuries I picked up as Iíve been shot and crashed in and thrown over walls and thrown in prison and on the run.

And so the walls close in on me both in the real world and psychologically as I - as things get tougher and tougher. Because there are consequences for living in this kind of denial and there are consequences for trying to chase down the people who are trying to kill you. And so we just ratchet things up tighter and tighter and the stakes get higher.

And along the way I think the frays begin to show. You know, this thing, itís not just that, you know, we meet him in the pilot when this is relatively fresh. Heís like okay well this seems to be working for me. Well it doesnít continue to work that well or that easily for him and hopefully that makes for an enjoyable hourís viewing. I mean, itís been very enjoyable living through his nightmare, I can tell you that much from my point of view.

Rita Sharrow: And does it - will there be any instances in future episodes, I donít know how many youíve shot so far, that...

Jason Isaacs: Twelve, weíre on the 13th.

Rita Sharrow: Oh youíre on the 13th, okay. Was there any relief for him where for the viewer watching him and going through this with him gets a little relief?

Jason Isaacs: Well look, there are times where thereís a respite from the catastrophe, unfolding catastrophe in his life. I mean, there are times when heís just solving a case and he seems to be working, you know, the life with his wife goes okay, life with his son goes okay.

I mean, obviously, you know, as an undercurrent there is always the thought that this canít be okay in the long run. I mean, who could ever sustain this. But, you know, the crime that week takes precedence. And there are times when itís just not going well enough with his wife or well enough with his son or something is going wrong for him and the world begins to fray.

I mean, there is one time when he canít seem to wake up in one world and there is, you know, times when it looks like he might have to give one up. I mean, thereís times when the therapists get him and he thinks - and such strange things happen in one world that he has to try and acknowledge or try to avoid acknowledging to himself that one of these worlds must be a dream. And we play with an awful lot of it, every permutation of nightmares seem to go through. We put him through the ringer.

Rita Sharrow: If I may ask one more real quick question.

Jason Isaacs: Sure.

Rita Sharrow: Does he share his - what heís going through with anyone besides the psychiatrist? Because usually partners...

Jason Isaacs: No and in fact - no he doesnít and in fact he starts to retract with the psychiatrist. Heís not stupid, heís not a stupid man. Heís been around death a lot, heís a homicide detective. And so he understands whatís going on with him and he realizes itís ridiculous. Or not ridiculous, he realizes that itís perilous for him in terms of stability.

But he knows what the next stage is and the next stage is acknowledging that somebody is dead and he doesnít want to. So but he also, as much as they have an insight into the fact that he has these very realistic dreams and they feel very real when heís having them, he doesnít want his badge and his gun taken away.

And thatís their job. Ultimately heís mandated to go to these people to try - for them to assess whether he is safe to be a serving detective. And so thereís a limit to how much he can share with these people.

He can tell them what his - they know he has these dreams so he tells them all about the dreams and heís looking for insights. Heís interested in their insight into what it means, what it might mean. But whenever it strays too close to either getting him taken off the job or taking one of his worlds away, you know, the alarm bells begin to ring for him.

So thereís nobody really he shares it with apart from - and thatís - to me all filming Iíve ever done whether Iím playing a wizard or, you know, a priest or, you know, detective, the - itís all - the camera loves secrets.

You know, the great conceit of all storytelling on camera is that you are sharing something with the audience through the camera that nobody else in that world knows. And whether itís literally not telling someone something or what youíre feeling that you donít even know yourself, an audience is engaged by secrets.

And I think thereís only one, you know, Michael Britten only truly shares what heís going through with the people who are watching TV and they live vicariously, live that life vicariously through him.

Rita Sharrow: Perfect, thank you so much.

Jason Isaacs: Pleasure.

Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Jamie Ruby with SciFi Vision. Please proceed with your question.

Jamie Ruby: Hi, thanks so much for talking to us today. Iím a big fan. I really appreciate it.

Jason Isaacs: Well thatís very kind. I feel bad about having said itís not sci-fi now.

Jamie Ruby: Thatís okay, I like both. Actually I really love it, what Iíve seen so far especially the kind of twists that are coming. So Iím curious, when we talked to Kyle Killen before he had said that you do a lot of like preparation to help keep the two worlds straight in your mind. Can you talk about some of that and how you deal with it?

Jason Isaacs: Well, you know, you have to - I have to have a little timeline separately because different things have happened to him in these different worlds. But the great thing for me is that, you know, very early on there was quite a lot of discussion about, you know, will an audience know that what has happened in this world, will they be able to separate the two worlds. And I kept on saying to them, guys thatís the whole hook of our story.

If Michael wakes up and heís at work and he says the wrong name for the case or he looks for the wrong partner or the wrong relative walks through the door and heís surprised, thatís exactly as it should be. The audience should go oh my God, I forgot. This is where Rex is alive because Iím forgetting.

So all I do is the - I donít live in two separate worlds, I live one life, you know. And if you woke up one day in France and the next morning in Louisiana and the next morning in France, youíre still the same person whoís waking up.

So Iím just a guy - so my job is the same as it is on every single film or television program or play Iíve ever done which is I just have to put it in order in my mind. I donít separate the two worlds at all because itís quite tough for him to separate the two worlds.

And so the real challenge like anything on camera is that you shoot all the scenes at one location in one go. So you have to go wait, this is - is this guy dead yet or have I met this here, has my wife cried yet? Oh no this is after, you know, my arm is blown off or whatever it is. And so thatís really the preparation you have to do.

But Kyle is being very sweet because the horrifying truth for the crew until they got to know me and visiting directors is that I seem like I havenít done any preparation at all because I never learn any lines. I never look at the script or the sides. I have taken a quick skim through it before we start and then I arrive in each scene.

As long as I know the order of events as they have happened to me which I have a simple list on one piece of paper, I then just let it unfold and I either learn or evolve or rewrite the lines as we rehearse the scene then shoot it. And itís a technique I learned from much more experienced and better actors than me and it makes everything fresh and organic.

But Iím sure that many of the visiting actors who come in think Iím, you know, Iíve just finished drinking a bottle of Tequila in the trailer. Itís exactly a considered approach.

Jamie Ruby: All right well obviously you have done a lot of work here and in the UK. Do you - is there anything different about like that? Do you approach it different or is it just different (unintelligible)?

Jason Isaacs: There isnít a huge difference. There may - all of it is storytelling. It doesnít matter whether youíre doing, you know, there is an alien space ship about to land.

You know, I did - Iíve done a bunch of green screens. I did (Event Horizon) and a solder and Armageddon and all these, you know, Iíve done a bunch of that stuff and Iíve done a ton of (unintelligible) things shot out the back of a van. Itís all the same, storytelling. All it is our, you know, Iíve got to imagine myself being this person in this situation.

The main difference is the food. In England you get there, thereís a couple of fried sausages and bacon in the morning and then maybe something very heavy like prison food for lunch. And if youíre lucky thereís some sandwiches made out of leftovers about 4:00 and an urn of tea.

And here on an American film and television set, there is a rolling buffet of every single edible substance known to man from the second you arrive in the morning until the second you roll yourself and squeeze yourself in a car in the evening.

And how there arenít more deaths by heart attack on set I have no idea. You know, why they donít have to adjust the costumes every week. I mean, literally there is a truck that stands - it canít be more than 50 yards from the set at any time. Itís got every sandwich and every bread and every potato chip and hot snack and soft drink and ice cream and candy bar that I have ever seen.

And then at lunch time they serve you a dozen meals and then all afternoon they continue to bring you cakes and creams and jerky and God knows what, you know, trays of hot food all day.

I donít understand it, I have never understood it. Literally I have never understood why thatís a necessity. And when I mention that it seems like overkill I look around and thereís hundreds of people looking at me with, you know, their jaws dropped as if Iíve been working, you know, behind the Iron Curtain in 1970. But really we make quite good films in England without it.

Jamie Ruby: Okay and then quickly you have played obviously all different kinds of roles but youíre, you know, most known for Lucius and all that. This time youíre more, you know, of a good guy. Do you prefer one over the other or, I mean, how do you feel about that?

Jason Isaacs: You know, my - it seems like my job is to try and tell stories in a believable way and find the humanity in anything. The hardest work I have ever done in my life is with crap scripts, you know, to take a really bad story or somebody saying something they would never say in a situation they would never find themselves in and try not to look like youíve got egg all over your face. And to try and stop people, you know, either switching off or throwing baseballs at the screen.

And so good stories well told where your character is saying, doing, or thinking something that we believe they would do are all the same. And whether itís, you know, this is one of those brilliantly written stories or these hour long episodes in which I work hard and fight hard sometimes to try and make things believable, thatís exactly the same journey.

But, you know, I could point out and I wonít indiscreetly some of the unutterable builds Iíve done in the past and thatís the stuff thatís hard to do. But for me there is literally no difference between having an elf next to me or having an LAPD badge on my belt if the story is well written.

Jamie Ruby: All right well thank you so much, I really appreciate it.

Jason Isaacs: Thank you.

Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Suzanne Lanoue with TV MegaSite. Please proceed with your question.

Suzanne Lanoue: Hi, itís nice to speak with you today.

Jason Isaacs: Good morning.

Suzanne Lanoue: Yes, morning. Thatís right, itís morning where you are.

Jason Isaacs: Oh sorry.

Suzanne Lanoue: Thatís all right, no. It was morning when the call started.

Jason Isaacs: Right.

Suzanne Lanoue: Letís see, so when you say itís not science fiction, you mean - Iím sorry, I havenít watched the pilot yet. So itís definitely all in his head from his post traumatic stress or whatever?

Jason Isaacs: Oh thereís no definitely about it, oh no no no, Iím not in any way narrowing it down. Iím saying it would seem to a viewer watching the pilot that heís probably dreaming one of these worlds. The show is called Awake because whenever he closes his eyes heís instantly transported to the other world.

It stands to reason if what weíre seeing is real, the crash at the beginning, that either his son or his wife is dead. He has experienced both funerals. So the most - certainly the - oneís first instinct will be to say that he must be dreaming in one of the worlds.

Beyond that, we donít want to be narrowed down because, you know, weíre taking people on a journey, taking people on a trip and hopefully we donít want to close down options for ourself.

Suzanne Lanoue: So there is still that question as to what it is going on.

Jason Isaacs: Yes because - well, you know, sometimes if youíre certainly very careful to ease people into the concept and initially when certain things cross over from one world to the other in his procedural life you go well he could have noticed that or he might have noticed that.

And then sometimes we play tricks with that or weíve shot things and then we cut them out in the edit so you can ask yourself how the hell would he have known that? You know, how could he have known that in his dream?

I have actually always got some unbelievably convoluted explanation and sometimes I speak to Howard and I go I think we should put that in and he goes nah, letís let people argue about it. Because he did the X Files for a long time and he knows how to create intrigue.

But yes, I think of it more as a psychological thriller, a mystery thriller. But if you want to think of it as sci-fi you are welcome to go ahead. Who knows? Maybe season 23 we might bring some aliens into it.

Suzanne Lanoue: So how far ahead do you know do the writers plot what is going to happen on your show?

Jason Isaacs: Well itís a very good - thatís a very good question because itís pretty well documented that we shut ourselves down halfway through the season. We, you know, were a few stories ahead and then as we started shooting it we found that it was a lot more work than we thought.

You know, they would write the initial story and then the second draft and third draft and you start shooting it and you realize it needs refining constantly because, you know, itís like making a puzzle backwards or Rubikís Cube backwards.

And so we just got to a point halfway through the season where we went actually weíre not confident the stuff weíve got coming up is as good as the stuff we shot already. And now we want to stop and review what weíve done and check where weíd like to go for the rest of the season.

And we went to the people who run 20th - (David Holden), (Gary Newman), and we went to Bob Greenblat who runs Showtime, we went to the studio and the network and we said can we stop. And they went what are you talking about? You know, we need to get you on the air.

I went I know but since we donít have an air date we really want to try and get this right. Itís the first season and we want to make sure, you know, itís - that the stuff is both complicated enough to be engaging and entertaining and simple enough to be easily followed and that we make emotional and character full and procedural. And they went oh, all right if you have to.

And they watched what we had done and they liked it and so they let us stop so that we could get back ahead of ourselves because we caught up, we literally caught up. It was like YouTube buffering, you know. And then we got a chance to get ahead of ourselves again and then by the time we got to the end of the season quite a lot of days weíre, you know, two days ahead of ourself.

So but the ideas and where the story is going to go, we had a long time ago. But the actual execution to make it, you know, we have a lot of veteran writers on this and veteran show runners, people who have run, you know, shows as popular as Friday Night Lights and the X Files and 24 and people who have written on many other things.

And I donít think any of them have experienced anything as challenging to make as this, Iím sure I speak for all of them. And thatís because to make something complicated seem simple to an audience is harder work than to do something that is just cookie cutter. So the answer is we tried to get far ahead of ourselves, we were catching up, and then we were allowed the license to stop and catch up on ourselves again.

Suzanne Lanoue: Well thank you very much and I hope itís a big hit.

Jason Isaacs: Thank you.

Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Gabe Callahan with Please proceed with your question. Mr. Callahan your line is now open, please proceed with your question.

Jason Isaacs: He has been abducted.

Operator: I will close his line and Iíll go to the next question, just one moment please.

Jason Isaacs: Thank you. Sorry Gabe.

Operator: So our next question comes from the line of (Kelsey Styler) with Please proceed with your question.

Kelsey Styler: Hi, thanks for speaking with us today.

Jason Isaacs: Hi (Kelsey).

Kelsey Styler: So I just kind of touching on the aesthetic of the show which, you know, obviously is very - in the reality with Michaelís wife we get kind of a sunnier, brighter filter whereas with his son itís almost a cloudy aesthetic. Obviously that helps to distinguish the two but what do you think it does sort of semantically and in a less direct way?

Jason Isaacs: Well funny enough, you know, this is one of the frustrating things about doing press when you guys havenít seen it. That is true of the pilot but itís not true of the other episodes. There is a different aesthetic.

And David Slade who was our pilot director who is a magnificent director and has real aesthetic vision, thatís what he did with the color palette with grading the film. But then (Jeffrey Rinehart) who is our supervising producer director who did most of Friday Night Lights came on and we decided to do something else for the rest of the season.

And what youíll see is that in Rexís world which is green world very subtly there are hints of green everywhere. They are more in the set decoration than in the, you know, a wash of color. And in Hannahís world youíll see red everywhere. Not so much that it will be, you know, nauseating but if you look very carefully, the detail on peopleís desks and the background and paintings on the wall and stuff have red themes in them.

What does it do? Nothing -- consciously it does nothing. But unconsciously or subconsciously itís just a hint and it keeps the set decorators fully employed and hopefully adds texture to the pictures. But really the story should tell you where you are in the world.

And if at any point the viewer goes wait a second, Iím not quite sure whatís going on, that should be exactly the same point that Michael Britten goes wait a second, Iím not sure whatís going on. And instead of that being a drawback that should, you know, thatís part of the fun of watching the show.

Kelsey Styler: Okay cool. And as far as the series goes, we talked a little bit about where it falls within the sort of crime drama genre. But I think doesnít it field outside of that as well? Where would you situate it within sort of the overall television landscape?

Jason Isaacs: I would situate it on Thursday nights at 10:00 pm on NBC. I have no idea. I mean, you know, the categorizing thing, itís very useful when youíre selling a show, you know. Iíve been in there and said oh itís a cross between Modern Family and (The Wire) or Iíve sold movies when you go, you know, itís Schindlerís List meets Bambi or whatever. Itís just a way of getting people to commission something.

But then all of the best television shows that I have ever like watching and films really become their own category. And then next time someone goes to sell something they say itís like that thing. Where does Deadwood come which is a show that I loved or, you know, what was The West Wing?

So it is what it is. Itís Awake and we would love it if everyone who likes sci-fi loved it and everyone who liked police procedurals loved it and anyone who liked emotional psychological dramas loved it. But it wasnít designed to fit demographics, it was designed to be a great story. And hopefully itís universally acceptable.

But, you know, really good work and storytelling is not designed for the audience, itís the people who are telling the stories engaging themselves and then you throw it out there and hope that what you find interesting other people find interesting. And they can categorize it however they like.

Kelsey Styler: Well thank you so much.

Jason Isaacs: Thank you.

Operator: Our next question comes from the line of (Alison Ebner) (unintelligible). Please proceed.

Jason Isaacs: Oh hi (Alison). You donít get - ah, I wonder where.

Alison Ebner: So thereís a line in the pilot that sums it up very nicely for maintaining a TV series. You say something along the lines of ďwhen it comes to letting one go I have no desire to ever make progress.Ē

Jason Isaacs: Thatís actually a perfect verbatim quote, nice work.

Alison Ebner: Thanks. So Michael doesnít want to let go but do you think there is another type of progress out there for him? You know, life is still going on where a form of progress (unintelligible).

Jason Isaacs: Oh yes, that might be - thatís exactly what he says because thatís what he would like to have happen but weíd be idiots if we let that happen for him. So thatís what he thinks, he thinks that he wants things to stay exactly as they are and anybody with any kind of insight in humanity knows that it canít be good for him and itís not right and there will be consequences.

Look, his wife has lost his son and his son has lost a mother. And heís the guy that is pretending that heís lost neither and try to cope and be a decent husband and father. And, you know, itís - I donít think itís going to work out for him the way that heíd like it to.

And anyway thatís how he feels initially. You know, the accident has been pretty recent. There are points at which, you know, things will become very tricky for him. I mean, they get very tricky emotionally for him. They actually get very tricky plot wise for him as well.

And, you know, I said before, no one ever buys a ticket to watch the village of the happy people. You know, Howard Gordon who ran 24 for a long time, if Kiefer woke up in the morning and the president is having a good day, his daughter was playing on the lawn, I donít think many people would have tuned in.

So we send him on some adventures, Michael, and hopefully theyíre entertaining adventures.

Alison Ebner: Great, and the pilot was incredible and it really seems to be upping the ante for TV. I mean, it essentially felt like a mini-movie to me. But do you get that sense also? You know, you mentioned the differences between the UK and the US but what - have you noticed differences between shooting film and TV and then this project?

Jason Isaacs: Well first of all Bob Greenblat is taking over NBC and Bob Greenblat ran Showtime for a long time. Heís a very smart guy, heís film maker and creative friendly meaning he lets people tell stories the way they like to tell stories.

And then Howard Gordon came in to run it who has just won a whole bunch of awards for Homeland. So there is - cable sensibility is the wrong word but there is a sense that nobody wants to try and do exactly what has been done before and the way itís been done before.

So thatís true anyway of the people who are overseeing it and then itís also true that the premise itself meant that when the writers sat down they were given a certain freedom every week to think differently. And some episodes come along and just sideswipe you and theyíre nothing like the episode that was the week before.

So, you know, if you ask me what an episode of House is like which is a show that I love watching, you know, thereís very similar plot lines every week and thatís one of the reasons you tune in because itís familiar and you know roughly whatís going to happen but they deliver it in a very entertaining way.

I think itís pretty hard to know exactly whatís going to happen. Sometimes, you know, some similar things happen on our show and sometimes we can go right off pace and take you off in a different direction because you know - once you know the central idea and youíre in tune with the characters we can take you to many places.

I think the writers felt that freedom and that challenge. And so did the directors. Weíve got some great directors, guest directors that come in. And if we get to do a second season I think we would go even further off field with it.

Alison Ebner: Great, well thanks so much. It was great to see you in (unintelligible) and I canít wait to see you (unintelligible).

Jason Isaacs: Thanks very much.

Operator: I will now turn the call over to Tracy St. Pierre. Please go ahead.

Jason Isaacs: Oh.

Tracy St. Pierre: Hi, Iím back. Thank you guys.

Jason Isaacs: Hey you, what are you doing here?

Tracy St. Pierre: You know, just listening in.

Jason Isaacs: Okay.

Tracy St. Pierre: I want to thank everyone for joining the call today and if you have any further questions for Jason or anyone else on our Awake cast, please give me a call and Iíd be happy to help with any requests.

Jason Isaacs: Iím available for weddings and childrenís parties. And youíll see me on the street corner twiddling a cardboard sign saying Awake Thursday nights NBC. Thanks very much everyone.

Tracy St. Pierre: Thank you.

Operator: Ladies and gentlemen, that does conclude the conference call for today. We thank you for your participation and ask that you please disconnect your lines. Have a great day.

Our Review of "Awake"

"Awake" is an intriguing drama about a detective (Jason Isaacs, "Harry Potter," "Brotherhood") who finds he is leading an double life that defies reality.

Show Trailer

Premieres, Thursday, March 1 at 10 pm on NBC
Following a tragic car accident, detective Michael Britten finds himself awake in two separate realities: one where his teen son, Rex (Dylan Minnette, "Saving Grace"), died in the crash and his wife, Hannah (Laura Allen, "Terriers") survived; and another where Hannah has perished, leaving Michael and Rex to pick up the pieces. In order to keep both of his loved ones alive, Michael begins living in two dueling realities, churning up confusion. In one reality, Michael and his wife debate about having another child, while in the other his son Rex is turning to his tennis coach, Tara (Michaela McManus, "The Vampire Diaries"), to fill the void from the loss of his mother.

Trying to regain some normalcy, Michael returns to solving crimes in both worlds with the help of two different partners, Detective Isaiah "Bird" Freeman (Steve Harris, "The Practice") and Detective Efrem Vega (Wilmer Valderrama, "That '70s Show"). Michael is assigned a different case in each reality and quickly discovers that his dual existence is actually a powerful tool. He begins to solve impossible cases by using his two realties to gain unique perspectives and link clues that cross over from world to world.

Helping Michael to navigate his two realities are his bureau-assigned therapists Dr. Evans (Emmy Award winner Cherry Jones, "24") and Dr. Lee (BD Wong, NBC's "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"). While both therapists work to untangle his two worlds, Michael has no interest in proving either one is false. But when memories of the accident begin to haunt him, he is forced to confront the truth about what really happened the night of the crash.

Please follow us on Facebook at and on Twitter at @NBCAwake.

JASON ISAACS - Detective Michael Britton
Jason Isaacs stars as Detective Michael Britton who, after a tragic car accident, finds himself awake in two realities: one where his teen son, Rex (Dylan Minnette, "Saving Grace"), died in the crash and his, wife Hannah (Laura Allen, "Terriers") survived, and another where Hannah has perished, leaving Michael and Rex to pick up the pieces.

Isaacs began his acting career at Bristol University where he studied law, but found himself much more interested in the performing arts. Upon graduating he enrolled at London's Central School of Speech and Drama where he trained for three years. In 2000, Isaacs landed a groundbreaking role, playing Col. William Tavington in Roland Emmerich's feature film "The Patriot." The performance garnered him a nomination from the London Film Critics' Circle.

Two years later, Isaacs began his role as Lucius Malfoy in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets." He went on to reprise the role in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," and again in the last two films "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Parts I and II."

Isaacs had his first experience on television in the drama "The West Wing" in 2004 and the comedy/drama "Entourage" in 2008.

His other film credits include "Black Hawk Down," Universal Pictures' "Green Zone," "Friends with Money," Revolution/Universal/Sony Pictures' "Peter Pan," "The Tuxedo," "Sweet November," "Windtalkers," "End of the Affair," "Armageddon," "Event Horizon" and "Abduction."

Isaacs has also garnered multiple awards and nominations for his television roles including the Best Actor BAFTA Award for his performance in "The Curse of Steptoe." A Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television for his role in BBC's six-part conspiracy thriller "The State Within." He gained critical acclaim for "Scars," and the three seasons of the Peabody Award-winning series "Brotherhood," for which he was nominated for a Satellite Award as best leading actor. Isaacs also starred in the lead role in "Case Histories" for the BBC, which also aired on BBC America, and recently won the BAFTA Scotland Award.

He has also appeared on stage, creating the role of Louis in the critically acclaimed Royal National Theatre production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Angels in America" - parts 1 and 2. He performed for packed houses at the Royal Court Theatre in Robert Delamere's "Force of Change" and "1953" directed by Patrick Marber at the Almeida Theatre and "Black and White Minstrels" at the King's Head.

Isaacs was born in Liverpool, England before moving with his family to Northwest London. He now lives in Los Angeles, California.

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